Album reviewed by Alan Fark
Nadaka's plucky and youthful expatriation from Canada to India as a teen in order to immerse himself in the culture seems to have metaphorically foretold his subsequent musical explorations. He has delved not only into Indian musicology, but has also tinkered some technical innovations with the western guitar in order to adapt the instrument to accommodate microtonal scales of a hybridized musical style between Western and Indian traditions.
As John McLaughlin had also found with his groundbreaking acoustic fusion group Shakti, the challenge of such hybridization is twofold. One is to expand the range of the guitar from 12 fixed Western semitones to an Indianized scale of 22 intervals within the octave, intervals intimately accessible to each other via the slurs and trills that define classical Indian music. Another challenge is to channel the music to a meditative drone, characteristically based on perfect 5ths rather than the tuning in 4ths as done by Western guitarists. Nadaka's own revolutionary solution was to create a guitar with a scalloped neck, mobile frets like those of a sitar, tuned to perfect 5ths. Scalloping involves carving the fretboard so that the left-hand fingers do not actually touch the fretboard, and so permitting an exaggerated string stretch. Pure gearheadedness? Not on your life... the music on "Living Colours" stands testament that the carpentry is done truly in service to the music, the music at once virtuosic, complex, and contemplative.
Nadaka owes a debt to his classically trained Indian collaborators, the five Basavaraj Brothers (on flute, violin, sitar, tabla, mridangam, ghatam and kanjira) for certifying the excellence of this recording, and he seems to reciprocate by assuring the spotlight falls broadly over all players rather than to capitalize a self-indulgence as McLaughlin was wont to do in Shakti. The parallels with Shakti's music are inevitable still, and though Nadaka's is a more restrained sound reaching more for beauty than flash, on "Surya Shakti" Nadaka also demonstrates a rapidfire surety that recalls McLaughlin's gift for blazing arpeggios.